In a different league
Dietmar Hamann says he would swap Liverpool's League Cup final glory for a fourth-place finish.
Last Updated: 27/02/12 2:06pm
Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann says he would gladly give up Sunday's League Cup final glory for finishing fourth in the Premier League.
The Reds won their first piece of silverware for six years by beating Cardiff on penalties after it finished 2-2 after extra time.
But Hamann, 38, told Sky Sports News that qualifying for the Champions League is preferable because it would enable the club to build for the future - and start by bolstering the midfield.
"It's a major step forward because silverware is what Liverpool is all about and some of these players are not experienced in winning trophies and the first one is always the most important one; hopefully Liverpool can go on to bigger and better things now," said Hamann.
"I slightly disagree with [director of football] Damien Comolli that they attract the best players now. If you want to attract the best players you have to play in the Premier League and this is the next step - giving it a go for the fourth position, because it would be a bad thing for the football club if they miss out on the Champions League for a second year running.
"Medium to long-term if you want to compete with the best teams, you have to play in the Champions League and if the team wants to progress as Comolli and Kenny said they have to get in the Champions League and they have to transform the form they showed in the Cup into the league.
"From a financial point of view I think you have to take the Champions League [over a League Cup final win] because there is a lot of money in the Champions League and you can't really compete with the top teams and attract the best players if you are not in the Champions League.
"So for that reason to progress the club and bring the happy days and the glory days back to the football club, I probably would have taken the Champions League over the League Cup because if you get in the Champions League it's extra funds, it's extra money, it's better players and I think that gives you a far better chance in the future to be successful."
Despite Liverpool's Cup success, Hamann remains concerned about the state of his former club's midfield and says they must strengthen that area if they are to compete with the very best sides around.
"I think going forward in general they need to improve; their defence has been pretty solid throughout the season but going forward is where the worry is," he said.
"Stewart Downing had an ok start to his career; Jordan Henderson is not a wide player really. Craig Bellamy can't play two, three games in a week.
"So going forward that's where they need to improve if they want to challenge the top teams in England."
However Hamann did single out one player for particular praise - substitute Dirk Kuyt, who found the net 18 minutes into extra time before clearing a Cardiff shot off the line and scoring in the penalty shoot-out.
"Kuyt scores in big games," said Hamann. "He's not played all of the games from the start this year but when he does come on he's always a threat.
"He scored a very important winner against Man Utd in the FA Cup and he's done the same thing yesterday; he turns up on the big occasion with the goods."